Fatal Crashes in the U.S. Up 5.6% in 2016

Fatality rate at highest level since 2008. Distracted driving down, speeding and drunk driving increase.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released fatal traffic crash data for calendar year 2016. According to NHTSA data, which was collected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2016, an increase of 5.6 percent from calendar year 2015.

The number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads in 2016 increased by 2.2 percent, and resulted in a fatality rate of 1.18 deaths per 100 million VMT – a 2.6-percent increase from the previous year and the highest level since 2008.

NHTSA found that distracted driving and drowsy driving fatalities declined, while deaths related to other reckless behaviors – including speeding, alcohol impairment, and not wearing seat belts – continued to increase. Motorcyclist and pedestrian deaths accounted for more than a third of the year-to-year increase.

The 2016 national data shows that:

  • Distraction-related deaths (3,450 fatalities) decreased by 2.2 percent;
  • Drowsy-driving deaths (803 fatalities) decreased by 3.5 percent;
  • Drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased by 1.7 per­cent;
  • Speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased by 4.0 percent;
  • Unbelted deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased by 4.6 percent;
  • Motorcyclist deaths (5,286 fatalities – the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008) increased by 5.1 percent;
  • Pedestrian deaths (5,987 fatalities – the highest number since 1990) increased by 9.0 percent; and
  • Bicyclist deaths (840 fatalities – the highest number since 1991) increased by 1.3 percent.

NHTSA continues to work closely with its state and local partners, law enforcement agencies, and the more than 350 members of the Road to Zero Coalition to help address the human choices that are linked to 94 percent of serious crashes. NHTSA also continues to promote vehicle technologies that hold the potential to reduce the number of crashes and save thousands of lives every year, and may eventually help reduce or eliminate human error and the mistakes that drivers make behind the wheel.

Commenting on NHTSA’s findings, John Bozzella, President and CEO of Global Automakers, in a statement said “The rise in highway fatalities is disheartening news, but a review of the facts and analysis points to a path forward. We are on the verge of taking a quantum leap in road safety with the deployment of driver assists, connected vehicles, and automated technologies that will help address and mitigate the main causes of fatalities, human error and impairment. The new figures underscore the importance and urgency of Congressional action on AV legislation to spur innovation and save lives.”